The education minister denies claims school refurbishments have been put on hold
The Minister for Education has denied that hundreds of school refurbishments are being put on hold.
It comes after the Government announced plans to build 42 new schools over the next four years.
Reports this morning indicated that some 575 school refurbishments have been put on hold in order to fund the new builds.
Launching the plans this afternoon, Education Minister Richard Bruton insisted that was not true.
“There is no school being put on hold in any respect,” he said.
“We have a pipeline of projects.
“These projects, they proceed based on planning difficulties, site acquisition; there is a programme of work that has to be done to take a school from conception when you announce your intention to bring it through to a tender point.
“That is a process that is in place.”
Many schools say their facilities are in dire need of refurbishment and extension, with reports of one school in particular having to use a boiler room as a classroom to meet demand.
Despite the minister’s denial, Fianna Fáil education spokesperson said any move to put refurbishments on hold is not acceptable.
“What is happening at the moment while this is going on is that the number of prefab rentals has gone up between 2016 and 2017,” he said.
“We have about 25.7 – almost 300 more prefab rentals in that year and they are going up again.”
Minister Bruton announced the projects this morning, with the majority set to be located in Dublin or the commuter belt counties of Wicklow, Meath and Kildare.
The decision was taken based on a new Department of Education analysis of changing demographics around the country.
26 of the new builds will be primary schools, while 16 will be post-primary.
The schools won't be completed until 2022 – and Deputy Byrne has warned that many communities are already crying out for new facilities.
“It is unbelievable that schools which are now deemed to be required next year are only being announced today and haven’t been announced before for the most part,” he said.
“That is quite extraordinary in terms of the planning.
“It doesn’t appear that any long or medium term planning has gone on in relation to this.”
An online process will be put in place to give parents a say in the patronage of each of the new schools, as part of the push to bring an end to the baptism barrier.
The Department says it plans to continue to monitor areas where existing schools need expanding, saying 40 per cent of new school places will come through extensions.